Educational Studies Professor Edwin Mayorga, Students Connect to Community

Education in our Barrios participants

Education in Our Barrios brings together students from local high schools and the College for a participatory action research project centered on Latinx communities.

AL DÍA: Taking on 'Education in Our Barrios'

For Edwin Mayorga and the Latino youth that make up the Education in Our Barrios Philadelphia team, learning begins at home, in the "barrio," the neighborhood.

“The project is premised on the idea that our communities and young people in particular are holders of very important knowledge. They’re never a blank slate when they enter a classroom,” said Mayorga, assistant professor of educational studies at Swarthmore College, who first launched Education in Our Barrios with a small group in East Harlem in 2013.

Mayorga explained that the goal of the participatory action research project is to create connection with self and community, allowing students to “explore their own identities and relationship to their history.” Through that lens they are also able to examine community histories and Latinx communities in the United States, in a format that is designed to “help them be rooted and develop a certain consciousness about the issues that are shaping their lives.”

The project this year involves seven high school students from Esperanza Academy in North Philadelphia and Furness High School in South Philadelphia, and six undergraduate student mentors from Swarthmore College and the Community College of Philadelphia.

This year's group defines their research focus as mental health in Latinx communities. The cohort is planning to release a survey in late April for Latinx youth ages 16-24, which will investigate the state of their mental health, the stressors in their lives, the places where they feel most at peace, their economic and social conditions, and their sense of cultural identity, among other aspects of mental and behavioral health.
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Mayorga said that in the future he hopes to grow the program so that it continues to bridge “a kind of divide between North and South Latinx communities” that Mayorga noticed upon first moving to Philadelphia from New York City in 2014.

Though the program is relatively new, it has already had an extended impact, Mayorga said, describing how some young people who have participated in the program in the course of its three years of existence have come back to the project as mentors who are able to “turn and leverage what they know for the next group of youth.”

“It’s a life-giving thing for me personally,” he said.

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Assistant Professor of Educational Studies Edwin Mayorga is an expert in education policy, U.S. Latinx education, urban politics and social movements, and social justice education. He co-edited the collection What’s Race Got to Do With It?: How Current School Reform Policy Maintains Racial and Economic Inequality (2015) and is also involved with the Philadelphia Community Schools Study, which is an examination of Community Schools as an education reform strategy in the city of Philadelphia.